Peter Pan: El Musical, Garrick Theatre, London
Wednesday 02 April 2008
Relations between England and Spain could have been greatly improved if our immigration officers had greeted the troupe of Peter Pan – El Musical with a famous phrase in their native tongue: "No pasaran." Instead, some misguided notion of cultural exchange sees this hybrid of JM Barrie and a tenth-rate Eighties disco in the West End.
Even a play of far less charm deserves better than to be brutally cut and set on an eye-aching black stage. The subterranean look is made necessary by the lurid laser displays. But if the dimness and the smoke machines spare us a closer view of the resentful-looking sets and bargain-bin costumes, the harsh sound-system substituting for an orchestra shows us no mercy.
The only bright spot is the expensive programme, which informs us that the production company, Theatre Properties, is known for "empathy" and "warmness", which "make shows be a world full of magic".
If you say so. But add in the abrasive or drippy songs by 10 tin-eared tunesmiths, dancing that combines children's exercises with bumps and grinds, and acting only a philistine mother could love, and one has a production notable only for cojones. Still, it's a woman, Cristina Fargas, who is the guiltiest party, having brought what the programme calls her "personal sensitivity" to the adaptation, direction and lighting, as well as the roles of Senora Darling and an added narrator. Her acting style is one of armour-plated graciousness, with a smile of radiant self-approbation. Miguel Antelo's Peter ("the boy in the leaves dress") also goes in for a constant display of dental work.
In the one touch of originality, El Capitan Garfio reflects Barrie's psychosexual problems. Standing over the sleeping Peter, Miguel Angel Gamero sounds like a sailor's unhappy mistress: "I lost it because of you... I'm sorry if you don't understand... You'll wake up and I won't be here."
The show can be not only prurient but unpleasantly so. Campanilla refuses to come when Peter calls, so he says he will drag her out, "and everyone will see you in your underwear". It really gets nasty when, at the end, the cast advance on us, declaring that we won't forget Peter, he's in our dreams, "He'll always be there!" It's one thing to have soiled two hours of one's life, but don't get vindictive about it.
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